|Tour No.||Tour Name||Dates||Price||No. Days/Nights||Spaces Available
|Tour 1||Tenerife Island: Lava, Sea & Stars||3-9 April 2019||2425€||7||Sold Out!
|Tour 2||Camino de Santiago: On Glory Roads||8-18 May 2019||3475€||11||Sold Out!|
|Tour 3||Camino de Santiago: On Glory Roads||5-15 June 2019||3475€||11||10 Space Available|
|Tour 4||Camino Portuguese: Porto area to Santiago||2-8 July 2019||2275€||7||15 Space Available|
|Tour 5||Galicia: Food & Wine Journey||5-11 Sept 2019||2675€||7||8 Space Available|
|Tour 6||Camino de Santiago: On Glory Roads||25 Sept-5 Oct||3475€||11||3 Space Available|
To book a tour, please click here.
|Tour No.||Tour Name||Dates||Price||No. Days/Nights||Spaces Available
|Tour 1||Hiking Tenerife Island: Lava, Sea & Stars||15-21 Jan 2018||2325€||7||SOLD OUT!|
|Tour 2||Camino de Santiago (Pamplona to Santiago)||2-12 May 2018||3475€||11||SOLD OUT!|
|Tour 3||Camino de Santiago (Pamplona to Santiago)||6-16 June 2018||3475€||11||SOLD OUT!|
|Tour 4||Galicia: Hiking From Sea to Mountain||3-10 July 2018||1975€||8||3 Spaces Available|
|Tour 5||Galicia: Food & Wine Journey||3-9 Sept 2018||2625€||7||SOLD OUT!|
To book a tour, please click here.
Author: Nancy L. Frey, PhD Date: June 2004
Publication: Spanish Magazine, No. 5, pp. 16-26
Article Title in Publication: Coastal Corner
Galicia: A view from my room
By Nancy L. Frey, PhD
I live in a little Galician fishing village on the northern shore of the Ría de Arousa, one of the Galicia’s highly scenic tidal estuaries (called rías). From my window Galicia spreads out before me. In the harbour, the small red wooden dornas are haphazardly moored, moved only by the tides. Retired fishermen stroll up and down the boat ramps and head off to the local bar for an afternoon of intense card playing. On the port’s new side blue and white iron hulled fishing boats prepare to head off for another night in the open Atlantic. Making their way through a maze of rocky shallows and islands, small fishing boats, with a flock of seagulls in hot pursuit, return to port further inland passing a natural breakwater that separates the powerful ocean from the tranquil estuary where hundreds of mussel platforms serve as incubator for one of Galicia’s many seafood delicacies. Endlessly rolling green mountains gently rise out of the water and continue in folds as far as the eye can see. Dense forests hide the Megalithic burial chambers and Iron Age settlements found littering the mountaintops and hillsides. A few scattered villages, white amidst a sea of green, sprinkle the upper reaches while lower down a patchwork quilt of worked fields separated by stone fences and stands of trees surround the numerous towns clinging closely to the shoreline.
Galicia forms the northwest end of Green Spain – the name typically given to the wet, verdant, temperate and highly scenic band of hilly countryside that faces the Atlantic along Spain’s northern shore and includes Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. Three of Galicia’s four provinces (Lugo, A Coruña and Pontevedra) face the sea with vast inland extensions while landlocked Ourense shares an undulating border along the great Río Miño with Portugal to the south. Galego, one of Spain´s four official languages, is spoken throughout the region especially the rural areas. Despite the economic boom which swept across Spain since the 1970s, Galicia still retains a strong hold on its traditional roots - an economy tied to the sea, its rich grazing lands, and small scale agriculture in a rocky, unforgiving countryside. Unlike the Basque Country further east, which industrialized quickly and rapidly in the 19th century, Galicia continues to surprise for its lack of visible industry outside of the few urban centres. Widows dressed in black still usher cows along the busy secondary roads. Only 30 years ago Galicians in the eastern sierras stopped living in pallozas, round thatch-roofed dwellings, as they had since pre-Roman times. And, since at least the 13th century, the ubiquitous rectangular hórreos (granaries), topped with cross and phallic pyramid for fertility, have kept the winter’s store safe from rain and rodents. It is precisely this anachronistic rural quality that contributes to the allure of Galicia.
In Iberia Michener calls Galicia the ‘granite land’ and comments on the large of percentage of arable land occupied by stone walls. While exaggerated, due to the vagaries of geography, history, agricultural practices, and inheritance norms the dispersion of Galician villages is striking. When crossing Spain’s centre you typically drive through extensive fields of cultivated cereals and then reach a compact village wrapped around a prominent church. Not in Galicia. Galicia has some 32, 400 settlements – cities, towns, villages (pueblos), hamlets (aldeas) and even places (lugares) of two or three houses – each surrounded by small family plots, pasturelands, rough gorse and broom ridden hills and woods. While its total extension (some 29,000 sq km) accounts for only 6% of Spain’s whole territory, the number of settlements accounts for 48% of Spain’s villages, towns, etc! Land reform changed this pattern to some extent (that´s why you´ll see strange rectangular plots here and there).
I see this curious dispersion clearly from my window where many small ports hug the Arousa estuary’s long shore. Most Galicians live along the coast. Of Galicia’s seven major urban centres, four are coastal: A Coruña, Ferrol, Pontevedra, and Vigo. Only A Coruña and Vigo manage to reach 250,000 souls. A Coruña thrives as a major shipping port, province capitol, and cultural centre with excellent museums, the oldest Roman lighthouse in Europe and the expansive Riazor beach integrated into the urban landscape. A walk down A Coruña´s picturesque waterfront Avenida da Marina reveals Galicia´s best example of multi-paned, enclosed galerías or sunrooms – it’s a virtual wall of glass. Vigo maintains Galicia´s largest fishing fleet as well as the Citroen car plant giving it a busy, industrial feel. Head down to its historical quarter, though, and you´ll find outstanding seafood in the small bars on its Rúa Pescadería (Fish Market Street). The rest of the population concentrates in inland Ourense and Lugo. Finally, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia’s capital and important university town since the 15th century, has historically been the region’s religious and cultural heart. It’s the one town not to miss if you visit Galicia.
Compostela has attracted pilgrims and travellers since the 9th century when a local religious hermit discovered the remains of Santiago (known in English as the Apostle James, the Greater). News of the discovery quickly spread and soon faithful came in masses from all points of the Christian world creating the network of medieval pilgrimage roads known as the Caminos de Santiago. The pilgrimage’s popularity put Galicia irrevocably on the European map and was in large part the source of the region’s medieval splendour leaving the countryside filled with innumerable churches, monasteries and masterpieces of art and architecture in the villages and towns through which the pilgrimage ways pass. The pilgrimage reaches its apex of splendour in the Apostle’s city and on the sublime Praza do Obradoiro where the great powers that have influenced the city over the centuries all find a place: the Romanesque cathedral with its soaring Baroque façade; the magnificent 15th century Reís Católicos hotel founded by the monarchs Isabel and Ferdindand as a pilgrims’ hospice; the imposing neo-Classical Raxoi palace cum modern-day city hall; and the university’s Colegio San Xerome with its well-carved neo-Romanesque portal. Listen on the plaza (and down the historical quarter’s beautiful arcaded streets alive with outdoor cafés) and you´ll hear local street musicians playing the gaita (the Galician bagpipe) and benefiting from the acoustics provided by the arch of the Archbishop´s Palace. Music fans will enjoy the Galician folk groups Milladoiro and Luar na Lubre as well as bagpipers, Carlos Núñez and Susana Seivane. Many of the instruments played by these groups can be found in the Cathedral´s masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture, the Pórtico da Gloria, in which the 24 Wise Men strum, blow and animatedly usher souls to heaven.
Looking south from my window, part of Galicia´s 1200km of rugged, indented coastline fringed by 50 islands, greets my eye. From the sky the Galician coast appears to be a piano keyboard with the rías separating the high mountains. The coast is typically divided into three parts: the densely populated and highly touristic Rías Baixas (Lower Estuaries); the most rural and undeveloped Costa da Morte (meaning Death Coast); and the Rías Altas (Upper Estuaries) which have the best surfing waves, Spain’s highest cliffs and share the border with Asturias. The crown jewel of the Rías Baixas recently became Galicia’s first national park (Spain’s fourteenth) - the Atlantic Islands National Park - founded in 2002 and composed of the Cíes, Sálvora and Ons islands. Most prized is the Cíes archipelago easily accessed by ferry in summer from Vigo or the summer resort town of Baiona. Known for their blinding white sand beaches, crystalline waters, great walking trails, and abundance of rare flora and fauna, two of its islands are connected by a sandy isthmus and stone walkway.
The Death Coast, named for its treacherous waters and shipwrecks, is home to Fisterra (or Finisterre in Spanish), the medieval end of the earth. In the untidy fishing port, sardines, brought fresh off the boat on ice, are grilled to perfection at one of the small bars. In the port’s roundabout, there’s a granite monument depicting a man holding a windowpane and a suitcase. He gives testimony to the long and sad history of Galician emigration in which 1.5 million Galegos have packed their bags and sought their fortune elsewhere since the 1880s. Galician handicrafts are kept alive in the nearby 14th century Vimianzo castle. All summer long basket weavers, potters (from the nearby pottery town of Buño), linen weavers, wooden shoe cobblers, lace makers and jet artisans are busy at work.
Along the Rías Altas a must stop is the Praia das Catedrais (Cathedrals Beach) during low tide when the ocean reveals a series of natural arches and caves. At San Andrés de Teixido, located on a steep cliff and one of Galicia’s most curious shrines, pilgrims leave wax body parts in hopes of a miraculous cure. As true of all the Galician mountains, semi-wild horses range here.
Annual round-ups (known locally as the Rapa das Bestas) are held all over Galicia and form part of the hugely popular cycle of fiestas or celebrations. Galicians have a knack of turning anything into a motive for a fiesta whether it be food (everything from pigs’ ears and barnacles to octopus and the delicious local green pepper Pimientos de Padrón), saints’ days (the most famous is the vibrant 25 July celebration of James in Santiago), historical incidents (a Viking attack in Catoira has been recreated since 1961), political protest, music (the International Celtic Music Festival in Ortigueira) or a traditional holiday such as Carnival (those of southern Ourense province take the cake especially Laza village). If you hear canon fire at any time, especially the summer, don´t be alarmed as that´s the Galician way of letting you know the fiesta has begun. My favourite fiesta comes up in July when seaports shut down to celebrate their patroness, the Virxe do Carme (Our Lady of Carmen). In Muros, her statue is processed out of the church to the port where fishing boats, decked out with flowers and brightly coloured streamers, await to accompany her in a circuit around the harbour as she blesses the sea. Fishermen on the boats throw floral wreaths to the ocean in her honour.
Life in the little port below my window is always a feast for the eyes. Gone are the days when the village beach reached the front doors of the fishermen’s houses and the dornas were sailed and achingly rowed in the rías. But, what hasn’t changed since time immemorial is Galicia´s fame as a seafood mecca. Each day I watch the white fibre-glass boats, painted bright red on the inside and powered by out-board motors, zip out to the nearby islands working Spain´s richest and oldest sea beds in search of tasty crustaceans, molluscs and cephalopods: almejas or clams (razor shell, wedge, carpet shell), berberechos or cockles, mejillón or mussels, ostras or oysters, vieira or scallops, zamburiñas - a delicious, petite scallop, erizos or sea urchins, crabs (diminuitive nécoras, robust buey or ox crab and the highly prized centollo or spider crab) as well as bogavante and langosta European and spiny lobster, chopo or cuttlefish, calamar or squid, and pulpo or octopus. Right now it’s percebe (goose barnacle) season. These succulent, finger-sized (and rather grotesque looking) crustaceans grab a huge price at the fish market and are usually ordered by the gram in restaurants. The clam and cockles season preceded the barnacle. To get clams men stand in their small boats for hours on end combing the seafloor while women work the estuaries at low tide bringing in cockles by the bucketful (sometimes carried on their heads!). In Santiago de Compostela the restaurants (there are at least 25 in about 50 metres of street) along the Rúa do Franco, such as O 42, display their tasty offerings in refrigerated window cases and let you hand pick your lobster or crab from the bubbling aquariums.
Archaeological evidence indicates that hunters and gatherers worked the rich tidal estuaries since at least 15,000BC digging up and scraping off the rocks delicious morsels-of-the-sea long before people were being buried in the fascinating megalithic (4000 to 3000BC) burial tombs (called dolmens) found preserved and scattered around the western half of Galicia or living in the nearly 5000 fortified villages (castros) inhabited by warrior Iron Age peoples (1800BC to 200AD), including the Celts, which completely cover the Galician territory. The mountain-top Castro de Santa Tegra looking down on A Guarda and Portugal as well as the impressive seaside Castro de Baroña are both worth a visit.
Galician seafood’s great fame is partly due to the simplicity of preparation. Forget about specialty stores or adapting recipes. Mussels and barnacles are steamed with water, salt and laurel leaf. Cuttlefish are floured, fried and served with a squeeze of lemon. Octopus (pulpo a la gallega) is boiled in huge copper pots, cut with scissors onto round wooden plates, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned with marine salt and sweet and spicy red pepper (pimentón). Outstanding fresh fish (hake, monkfish, sea bream, sole and bass just to name a few) are typically grilled, served a la gallega (with olive oil seasoned with garlic and paprika), a la romana (egg battered and fried), or, the fisherman’s classic, caldeirada (a mixture of fishes and potatoes slowly stewed). If you want to take a taste of the sea home, the canned seafood produced here is also outstanding. Look for Luís Escurís Batalla’s excellent hand-packed products.
With this seafood cornucopia it’s easy to forget about Galicia’s inland offerings. Hearty pork dishes to kill any hunger reign: lacón con grelos (pork shoulder with greens), cocido (every pig part imaginable and chorizo sausage slowly boiled and served on heaping platters with cabbage), caldo gallego (broth soup with greens and potatoes). Empanadas (using both wheat and corn flour) are delicious meat pies filled with just about anything - outstanding local veal, tuna, cod with raisins, clams, or octupus. Galicia’s four cow’s milk cheeses, especially the creamy breast-shaped tetilla and smoked San Simón varieties, are not to be missed. Galicia also produces excellent white Ribeiro wines in the warmer, southern climes along the Río Miño and notable white Albariño wines in the Rías Baixas.
If I look out the back window, it could be anywhere in Galicia´s interior. Small garden plots divided by granite stone walls and planted with corn, potatoes and long leafy greens make a chaotic yet beautiful quilt of tilled fields. I see fig, lemon and laurel trees as well as two kinds of willow (one used to fashion baskets) along the brook. There are also stands of oak and fragrant pine and eucalyptus trees - the latter planted extensively (and to the detriment of the environment) for paper and pressboard. Ornamental gardens have excellent examples of magnolias, camellias, hydrangeas and rhododendrons – species all brought at the end of the 19th century and planted in the gardens of rich return emigrants and wealthy local families in their huge manor homes called pazos. Missing from the scene are chestnuts. The best examples are in my favourite lost corner of Galicia: the Serra de Courel mountain range which lies just south of the Cebreiro mountain pass in Lugo province. Great groves still thrive producing outstanding sweet chestnuts. Some of these nuts wind up roasting on Madrid´s streets in winter. Until the 18th century chestnuts were the major carbohydrate – and thrown into stews, boiled, eaten raw, roasted - before the easily cultivated potato became a dietary mainstay. In some regions of Galicia, potatoes are called castañas de terra (earth chestnuts).
Heading up Lugo province is an old Roman city founded in a sacred forest once dedicated to Lug, a pagan god. Lugo’s claim to fame is its intact 3rd century Roman wall ringing its historical quarter. Named an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002, walking along the top of its 1.2mile perimeter gives a voyeur’s view into the chaotic city and its magnificent cathedral, dilapidated historical quarter, elegant 18th century avenues, private school yards, open fields, huge magnolias and the quirky evolution of slate (the province’s dime a dozen building material) tiles used to roof houses! Romans came to conquer these prized Galician lands once rich in gold, tin and silver. They ended up exploiting not only the gold and molluscs but also its thermal waters. Down by the Río Miño remnants of Roman thermal baths exist alongside the modern spa, Balneario de Lugo, where the water emerges at 43.8 degrees Celsius
If I listen, rather than look out my window, I hear another element of Galician reality: the cement mixer’s whir, the clanking of chains on huge mobile cranes and the sound of hammers busy at work. Next door an elegant 40-apartment, granite-faced complex quickly went up taking the place of rundown port buildings. Construction and real estate speculation are two very popular activities especially on the coast and the outskirts and bedroom communities of the major cities. Unfortunately, uncontrolled building has resulted in cases of unappealing urban sprawl and rural development with little aesthetic uniformity. Nonetheless, a wide array of properties from new and used coastal apartments and chalets (modern, usually, second homes) to 18th century pazos to chunks of undeveloped property (finca in the country and solar in the city) to run-down rural stone cottages and stunning multi-story houses in the centre of the region’s numerous historical quarters are waiting for either massive restoration or gentle fixing up. If you are looking for an affordable, run-down property in the boonies then head to the hills of Lugo or Ourense province where entire abandoned hamlets are for sale. The restoration of farmhouses, pazos and other buildings of historical import into rustic lodgings and elegant hotels, called turismo rural, has been a major thrust of the tourism industry. The Galician government provides grants to restore historical properties intended for this type of tourism. The website www.turgalicia.es lists all of these lodgings. Thirty minutes east of Santiago, find the elegant Pazo de Andeade and enjoy its peaceful ample gardens and outstanding kitchen.
Spain´s expanding economy of the 1990s provoked a building craze and explosion in the real estate market all over the country. In comparison to the rest of Spain, Galicia continues to be a good place to buy: the average price of used property in Spain in 2003 as a whole was 1330 Euros per sq m whereas in Galicia it was 852 Euros per sq m. In 2003 the price of second-hand property rose 17% on the national level while in Galicia it only rose 5%, the lowest in Spain.
To help facilitate the sale of property inmobiliarias (real estate offices) abound. Many of these companies have websites and display properties with photographs to facilitate your research. For example, the website www.tusinmobiliarias.com has listings all over the region and branch offices in Santiago, A Coruña, Pontevedra, and Vigo and publishes a free monthly newspaper with property listings. The more ample bi-weekly publication, Galicia Inmobiliaria, is available in kiosks for 1 Euro.
When buying an old house or undeveloped property be sure to check very carefully that what you are being sold corresponds with the paperwork documenting the property and that construction is permitted. Many properties, especially country fincas, have never been registered in the local registry and may only be documented through a will. A Galician law enacted in January 2003 regulates uncontrolled building to maintain an aesthetic norm outside city limits and in rural areas. In some instances, real estate agents have kept properties on the market that at one time were legal but are no longer according to the new regulations. The town hall in which the property is located can assist you.
One thing I haven’t mentioned is that I can’t enjoy the view from my window every day. Galicia is green for a reason and when the waves turn white and the winds and clouds threaten from the southwest, I know it’s time to batten down the hatches and enjoy a steaming bowl of caldo gallego inside while the winter storm roars on.
Basque Country: Culinary mecca, Art center (incl., Guggenheim Museum), French and Spanish coastal and Pyrenees walks!
The Basques have often been described as a mysterious people: Where did they come from? What’s the source of their language? How did they survive as a people despite waves of invasion of Celts, Romans and Christian settlers?
Arguments of geographical isolation seem to hold little water leading some to conclude that there must be something special about Basque character which has allowed them to endure and thrive in their enchanting corner of south-west France and mid-northern Spain where the sea meets the great Pyrenees mountain range.
The Basque Country (Euskal Herria in the Basque Language, País Vasco in Spanish and Pays Basque in French) is made up of seven historical provinces (Bizkaia, Alava, Guipuzcoa, Navarra, Labourd, Basse Navarre and Soule) stretching on both sides of the border. In our days, Bizkaia, Alava, Guipuzcoa make up the Spanish autonomous community of Euskadi, while Navarra has its own autonomous region status and the rest are part of the French State.
These hilly and coastal lands have been farmed, havens for shepherds and exploited for their mineral wealth for centuries and centuries by the Basque peoples who share a common language - Euskera. Euskera is a pre-Indoeuropean language and believed to have been in use since the pre-Roman era. Basque folklore, games (hand ball, pelota, jai alai), cuisine, dance, and a profound relationship to the land and homestead are deeply cherished in this fertile region and we’ll learn more about these ways of life and being as we walk the area’s paths and ways.
On our tour we will explore the roots of Basque history and the legacy of 19th C unbridled nationalism, born in the industrial age, on contemporary society (oftentimes in conflict with itself). We’ll sample their world famous cuisine, visit their coastal fishing villages from which innumerable voyagers launched off into the unknown in search of discovery and opportunity or to land an enormous whale, walk along their old smuggler’s trails as we cross the border connecting France and Spain on two ancient Basque passes all the while being exhilarated by their most beautiful natural resources - the densely forested Urkiola Nature Park, the coastal Flysch Trail (a geologist’s paradise) and the rolling txakolí vineyards set between the coast and mountains. We’ll not only stay in some of the Basque country’s most beautiful coastal and mountain villages, we’ll also enjoy the vibrant cities of Bilbao (visiting the Guggenheim Museum) and San Sebastian (a city perfectly interfaced with its coastal and hilly setting and justly famous for its cuisine).
Tour duration: 7 days & 7 nights
Level: Medium-Hard. The Basque Country hikes are medium to medium-hard level due to the continuously hilly countryside with several hard sections on sometimes steep, and potentially very slippery limestone trails over the course of the hikes on some of the days. Expect elevation gains/losses of 500m/1500feet over the course of the day’s walk with successive steep ascents and/or descents. Hiking lengths range from 9 to 16km/ 5.5 to 10 miles. While the distances are not long, the walking conditions require care, stamina, concentration and being comfortable on uneven and irregular walking surfaces. The surfaces range from easy forest and farm track to challenging sandstone and limestone (ie, slippery if wet and very irregular rocks) descents on ungroomed mountain hiking trails. Walking sticks are highly recommended.
Most of the hikes are designed to start in one location and end in another (ie, vehicle drops us on one side and picks us up on the other) and once you are on the trail, you are committed to the end. Most of the walks do not lend themselves well to shortening or providing easier alternatives. While the hiking trails have many very, easy straightforward sections they also have difficult sections which could be overly demanding for someone with balance, stamina, stability or vertigo issues. Training by playing tennis, bicycling or walking on asphalt only is not adequate for this trip. Keep in mind that this is a guided trip and the group needs to stay together due to the nature of the trails and the large number of alternative pathways that we will be frequently encountering. Please let us know if you have any questions.
Walking Days: 7 Total
Distance: 38.5 mi/60.5 km With optionals add-ons 48.1 mi/ 77.6 km
On the tour we book standard double rooms. You can also choose to upgrade to view rooms on a couple of nights for an extra fee. Please contact us for more information.
Single Supplement: The single supplement fee is €340 for this tour. This is much higher than most of our other tours as the hotels discount very little for single occupancy or use double rooms for singles.
Groups: If you have a group of four (4) or more and the dates are not available when you would like to travel, contact us and we can try and schedule a tour adapted to your dates.
Weather: The Basque Country’s driest months are from July to September but be prepared for the unexpected rain shower at any time of the year. Summer temperatures oscillate between 15-30ºC / 60-85ºF
What is and isn’t included:
Trip price includes accommodations (double occupancy), meals (all breakfast, lunch and 5 of 7 dinners), all entry fees except where noted in the itinerary, pre-departure information, experienced guides (Nancy & Jose), support vehicle, all transportation during the trip. Airfare to Spain is not included nor is trip & health insurance or transportation to the starting point (Bilbao) and from the ending point (San Sebastián).
Day 1 - Bilbao
After a brief introduction and presentation of the week’s program we’ll take a walking tour of Bilbao, a city founded 700 years ago. We’ll set off from the hotel and walk back in time through Bilbao’s different districts representing its different eras – growth and wealth of the Industrial Revolution, the narrow, twisting streets of the historical quarter nicknamed the Siete Calles district (named for the seven streets that divide the area). We’ll walk the winding streets passing the gothic Cathedral of Santiago. We’ll then walk along the Nervion River to the Guggenheim Museum. En route we pass the pedestrian Zubi Zuri bridge designed by the world-famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
At the Guggenheim we give you free time to explore architect Frank Gehry’s fascinating building and its collections which have given a completely new face to Bilbao’s waterfront. We’ll enjoy our first sampling of Basque Cuisine at dinner tonight. Walking distance: 2.8miles /4.5 km
Day 2 - Axpe
We shuttle to the center of Euskadi to the Urkiola Nature Park located in the mountains around Durango. Nicknamed the little Switzerland, the park boasts a stunning limestone range of green pastures and majestic, craggy peaks whose crowning glory is Anboto (1330m/4362ft), the mythic dwelling place of the Basque country’s most important pre-Christian deity, Mari, aka the Dama de Anboto.
Today we’ll cross this enchanting range inspired by the legends and its magnetic beauty and walk to our lodging, a beautifully restored caserío (traditional Basque farmhouse) in the small village of Axpe.
There is one steep, hard descent in this section. This picturesque village is set within a deep and narrow, wooded valley at the foot of the Urkiola mountain range.
Tonight’s fare will emphasize the inland farmers’ hearty meals. 7 mi/ 11.5km With optional add-on 9.3mi/15km
Day 3 - Axpe
From our lodge we’ll set off to explore the wooded countryside around the village.
We walk to another caserío to learn about the life of a local shepherd and spend the morning with him and his sheepdog ‘Hari’.
We’ll learn about production of local cheese and cuajada (junket).
After our morning’s visit, you can choose to return to the hotel and enjoy a quiet afternoon in this valley famed to be Donde el silencio se oye (Where silence is heard) or continue hiking a very scenic, aerial walk through the park and along the base of two peaks visible from our hotel.
Dinner on your own tonight.
You might want to try the Michelin rated Casa Exteberri famous for its grilled foods down in Axpe. 1.9mi/3km With optional add-on 5.6mi/9km
Day 4 – Deba
We head north from Axpe to the impressive coast with its memorable seaside roads hugging the abrupt coast interspersed with small towns and beautiful sandy beaches.
We start from the seaside town of Zarauz and we’ll walk east up into the coastal hills through the highly scenic txakolí district. Txakolí is the wine par excellence of the Basque Country – a fruity, young white wine. We’ll walk through the high hills enjoying fantastic views of the coast and inland mountains as the trails wind through the vineyards. En route we stop in a family-run winery where we’ll visit the winery, learning about the history of wine production in this area and have a tasting. We continue walking to our picnic. Afterwards you’ll have the option of continuing the coastal route to Zumaia (and then shuttle to the hotel) or returning directly to the hotel. Dinner tonight at the hotel. 5.9mi/8km With optional add-on 7.1mi/11.5km
Day 5 – Deba
Today we will take a fascinating coastal hike along one of the geological wonders of the world called the Flysch Trail. To orient us to the route we’ll start our visit in the Flysch Museum and then set off on the hilly route (with several steep ascents) that takes us back into millions of years of geological time opened up to us on the exposed cliffs like the pages of a book. During part of the route we coincide with the thousand year old Camino de Santiago pilgrim’s trail which led European pilgrims along the coast on their long journey west towards Santiago de Compostela. After the picnic you have the option of walking back to the hotel in Deba or to return by van. You have the rest of the afternoon and evening to relax on your. 6.5mi/10.5km With optional add-on 9mi/14.5km
Day 6 – Along the Bidasoa River
En route to our trailhead in Sare, France, we'll drive through lovely French Basque villages and get a taste of the Basque Country on the other side of the border. Today we make an exciting journey into the past passing three sets of caves as we walk from France over the border to Spain.
Over the course of thousands of years, the caves have been whittled out of the limestone massif that forms this stretch of the Western Pyrenees.
We’ll walk through rolling farmland along ancient smuggler’s paths that were used most recently to help Jews flee from Nazi occupied France. We pass the Sare caves which were occupied some 45,000 years ago by human ancestors.
Sheep and semi-wild horses, pottoks, graze in these hills as the wooded trail heads over the border to the Spanish caves at Zugarramurdi (Navarra) where a witch hunt in the 1620s left the local populations of Urdazubi and Zugarramurdi with only one-fifth of its residents.
The supposed witches were said to meet in the caves for their covens (akelarres). The last caves in Urdazubi overflow with natural sculpture - stalactites and stalagmites formed by the process of karstification - water acting upon limestone. We enter the earth’s innards and witness the work of water on stone over the course of hundreds of thousands of years.
After our walk we’ll shuttle back along the Bidasoa River and spend the night in our charming restored historical building and enjoy more delicious regional cuisine. 6.2 mi/10km
Day 7 –San Sebastian
We’ll drive to one of the Basque Country’s most beautiful natural ports, Pasai Donibane. Oozing historical charm, with its galleried waterfront homes, this attractive village is where Victor Hugo lived and wrote 'Alps and the Pyrenees' in 1843. From here we’ll take a magnificent coastal trail which leaves the village along a steep, ascending trail past a picturesque lighthouse which protects the entrance to the harbor.
The undulating trail enters forests, soars along the cliffs and transports you back in time to the days when the hillside, Uliamendi, was used by local whalers to spot the great sea beasts approaching the coast.
Our destination is the beautiful city of San Sebastian arguably Spain’s most attractive and romantic urban setting. Among its charms are: three spectacular beaches, its expansive bay leading out to the ocean, the hilly contours framing the city, the wooded Monte Urgull crowned with the ruins of a castle and its very appealing early 20th century architecture funded by turn-of-the-century nobles who came here in droves to enjoy the temperate climate.
On our way into town we’ll wander the streets of the old quarter, enjoy its maritime walkway, look for the more than 100 types of lamp posts decorating the city and then wind up at our hotel. Here we’ll find the Basque cuisine at its best ! We’ll enjoy our farewell dinner in this culinary mecca ! 6.2mi/10km
On Foot in Spain Walking & Hiking Educational Adventures specializes in small group (6 to 14 people) walking tours in northern Spain since 1999. We emphasize Spain's rich cultural heritage (art, history, folklore), its stunning and varied landscapes, flora and fauna as well as provide the finest in lodgings and regional cuisine.
Join owner-guides cultural anthropologist Nancy Frey (PhD, UC Berkeley) and writer, mountaineer Jose Placer (co-author Walking in Spain, Lonely Planet, 1999 & 2003 and Walking in Scotland, LP, 2001) on an unforgettable walking or hiking tour to one the following:
GALICIA - isolated coastal walks, abundant and varied seafood, ancient mountain villages, Celtic remains
PICOS DE EUROPA - emerald-green pastures, dense forests, soaring peaks, delicious cheeses and hearty stews
CAMINO DE SANTIAGO - medieval pilgrimage route, unparalleled artistic treasures, northern Spain's grand tour
COMPOSTELA - walk last section from León through green Galicia, earn the Cathedral's Compostela certificate
BASQUE COUNTRY & PYRENEES - Europe's oldest people, Guggenheim Museum, French and Spanish coastal and Pyrenees walks
PORTUGAL - Enchanting borderlands mixing coast and mountain landscapes, selected highlights of the Camino Portugués from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
On Foot in Spain - Rosalia de Castro, 29, 15886 Teo, A Coruña, Spain.
Walking in Spain (Lonely Planet, 1999, 2003). Miles Roddis, Nancy Frey, Jose Placer, Matt Fletcher and John Noble.
On Foot in Spain owners, Nancy Frey and Jose Placer, have chapters on Galicia, Cordillera Cantábrica (Picos de Europa), the Basque Country and the Camino de Santiago. The 2003 book covers all of Spain but not the Canary Islands.
Foster, Nelson and Linda S. Cordell, ed. 1996. Chilies to Chocolate: Food the Americas Gave the World. University pf Arizona Press. Kerper, Barrie. 2003. Northern Spain. The Collected Traveller. NY: Three Rivers Press.
A good collection of articles covering parts of Spain hard to find information about in English including Galicia, Asturias, the Basque Country and Cantabria
Measures, John. 1992. Wildlife Travelling Companion: Spain. Wiltshire: Crowood Press.
A general guide on flora and fauna of Spain good if your travelling across the country but not a specialist’s guide.
Hooper, John. The New Spaniards. Penguin. 1997.
Hooper manages to provide a well-balanced accounting of Spain as it is today and why.
Lalaguna, Juan. A Traveller’s History of Spain. 1996
Excellent, compact summary of Spain’s complex history.
Crow, John A. 1985. Spain. The Root and the Flower. Berkeley : UC Press.
Barlow, John. 2008. Everything But the Squeal: A Year of Pigging Out in Northern Spain.
Barlow, a native of England, has a great time exploring Galicia’s food traditions focusing on pork with his Galician vegetarian wife. A funny read. We won’t be eating nearly as much pork as he!
Borrow, George. 1842. The Bible in Spain.
19th century English Bible salesman George Borrow relates his experiences, in an often humorous fashion, in this excellent volume on mid-19th C Spain. There are accounts of areas we’ll pass through including Finisterre.
Casas, Penelope. 1997. Spain’s Green Corner. New York Times Travel. April 27, p. 12, 29.
Good general overview of Galicia’s coastal highlights.
Frey, Nancy. 2004. Galicia. Coastal Corner. Spanish Magazine. June (Issue 5), pp. 16-25.
Now find the article HERE!
An article describing Galicia and its highlights from Nancy’s perspective as someone who has lived in the region since 1997.
Frey, Nancy. 2003. Serra do Courel: Galicia’s Wild Frontier. Originally published on www.wild-spain.com.
Now find the article HERE!
Here I describe the beautiful range south of the O Cebreiro pass with an emphasis on the geology, flora and fauna.
Gemie, Sharif. 2006. Galicia. Histories of Europe Series.
A good general overview of the region with a strong focus on modern history.
Kerper, Barrie. 2003. Northern Spain. The Collected Traveler. An Inspired Anthology & Travel Resource.
The author presents a very comprehensive annotated bibliography of themes not just related to northern Spain but Spain in general in addition to good selected articles about each zone of the north including Galicia.
Michener, James. 1968. Iberia. Spanish Travels and Reflections.
While everything else in the book is terribly outdated, his chapter 13 – Santiago de Compostela offers a great read with solid historical information.
Jenny Chandler and Jean Cazals. 2005. The Food of Northern Spain: Recipes from the Gastronomic Heartland of Spain.
Beautiful photography and delightful prose in this lovely book on food in northern Spain.
Rivas, Manuel. 2003. Vermeer’s Milkmaid: And Other Stories
Rivas is a contemporary Galician author who writes about his region and this is just one suggestion to introduce you to his work.
Rosalía de Castro.
Considered to be Galicia’s finest 19th C poet, her work is full of nostalgia and strong sense of landscape and place. Follas Novas(New Leaves) is a good start.
Also check out the following website which has many resources about Galicia:
Ena Alvarez, Vicente. 1996. In the Picos de Europa (Translation from Spanish). Leon: Edilesa.
General book on the Picos.
Browning, Frank. 1998. The Apple of Spain’s Eye. San Francisco Examiner. Travel Section. Sept 13, pp. T-1, T-4, T-5. Travel article on Asturian sidra
Clissold, Stephen. 1974. Saint James in Spanish History. History Today 24 (10): 684-92.
Excellent general overview of the development of the pilgrimage and cult of St James.
Coelho, Paolo. 1995. The Pilgrimage. A Contemporary Quest for Ancient Wisdom.
One of the most popular and controversial contemporary Camino books. Brasilian best-selling author, Coelho takes us on his mystical journey along the Camino in search of wisdom. He provides spiritual exercises.
Egan, Kerry. 2004. Fumbling: A Pilgrimage Tale of Love, Grief and Spiritual Renewal on the Camino de Santiago. Doubleday.
Personal account written by a Harvard graduate student of theology. After her father died of diabetes she walked the Camino.
Follet, Ken. Pillars of the Earth
Masterpiece novel set in 12th C Britain during the period of transition between Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Follet develops a fascinating human and historical journey that even coincides w/ the Camino.
Frey, Nancy. 1998. Pilgrim Stories. On and Off the Road to Santiago. Berkeley: UC Press.
Nancy’s anthropological study on the contemporary pilgrimage which brings to life the multitude of experiences of the modern traveler along the Camino based on her hundreds of interviews with pilgrims from 1992 to 1997.
Gitlitz, David and Linda Kay Davidson. 2000. The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago. The Complete Cultural Handbook. St. Martin's.
The title says it all. The guide covers art, architecture, history, folklore, flora and fauna.
Hitt, Jack. 1994. Off the Road. NY: Simon and Schuster.
Humorous and irreverent personal account of Hitt's 1993 walk to Santiago.
Hoinacki, Lee. 1996. El Camino. University Park: Penn State Press.
Deeply felt personal account with a strong spiritual emphasis by an older man who walked to Santiago.
Jacobs, Michael. 2003. The Road to Santiago. Pallas Guides.
Architectural guide for travelers along the Camino.
Lack, Katherine. 2003. The Cockleshell Pilgrim: A Medieval Journey to Compostela.
In the late 1990s, while an English cemetery was being moved, a 14th C pilgrim was discovered buried with his scallop shell. Lack, a historian, attempts to reconstruct his journey and 14th life on the road.
Laffi, Domenico. 1997 (1681). A Journey to the West. The Diary of a Seventeenth Century Pilgrim from Bologna to Santiago de Compostela. Trans. James Hall. Leiden (Netherlands): Primavera Pers and Santiago: Xunta de Galicia.
Delightful account and translation of Laffis 17th C journey. His eye for detail leaves us with a memorable legacy and Hall has added excellent illustrations to accompany the text.
Maclaine, Shirley. 2001. The Camino. Journey of the Spirit. Atria Press.
People either love or hate this book. Maclaine walked to Santiago in I994 and then wrote about her spiritual, physical, other-worldly and celebrity experiences along the way.
Melczer, William. 1993. The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela. NY: ltalica Press.
First English translation of the 12th C pilgrimage guide Codex Calixtinus that helped popularize th pilgrimage route. His translation and first-rate historical background and extensive notes, bring to life this fascinating and invaluable document.
Michener, James. 1968. Iberia. Spanish Travels and Reflections. NY: Random House.
While everything else in the book is terribly outdated, his chapter on the Camino (Chapter 13 - Santiago de Compostela) offers a great read with solid historical information.
Moore, Tim. 2005. Spanish Steps. Travels with My Donkey. London: Vintage Press.
Funny account of this Englishman’s trials and tribulations walking with his donkey to Compostela.
Mullen, Robert. 2010. Call of the Camino. Myths, Legends and Pilgrim Stories on the Way to Santiago de Compostela. Findhorn Press.
Mullen blends issues of mind, body and spirit in this engaging account of his walk along the Camino.
Newman, Sharon. 1997. Strong as Death (Catherine Levendeur Mysteries). Forge Books.
Murder stalks Catherine and her husband Edgar on their 12th C journey to Compostela. She must use her wit to figure out who among the assorted traveling companions did it!
Nolan, Dee. 2010. A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Penguin
A journalist and olive oil producer Dee fulfilled a dream walking the Camino with us and then wrote this exquisitely beautiful book in which she let her heart and palate be her guide.
Nootebaum, Cees. 1997. Roads to Santiago. Detours and Riddles in the Lands and History of Spain. NY: Harcourt.
This popular Dutch writer takes you with him on his long journey through Spain to Santiago covering many, many topics.
O’Marie, Sister Carol Anne. 1993. Murder Makes a Pilgrimage. NY: St. Martin’s Press.
Modern day murder mystery set on the contemporary Camino with a septuagenarian nun Sister Mary Helen as the protagonist and unlikely crime solver.
Rudolph, Conrad. 2004. Pilgrimage to the End of the World.
Very good and thoughtful, compact travel essay by an art historian who walked to Santiago.
Rupp, Joyce. 2005. Walk in a Relaxed Manner. Life Lessons from the Camino. USA: Orbis Books.
Rather than the typical diary account Joyce, a 60+ walker, focuses on the basic messages she took from the pilgrimage: Live in the Now, Listen to Your Body, Don't Give Up, Trust in a Higher Power, Humility.
Camoes, Luis Vaz de.16th C. The Lusiads. Oxford University Press.
Considered to be the greatest epic writer of his time, Camoes writes nostalgically about the age of oceanic discovery just as Portugal’s golden age was dimming.
Gomes, Tania. 2006. Flavors of Portugal. Thunder Bay Press.
Provides interesting recipes including unusual family ones in this bilingual edition.
Hermano Saraiva, Jose. 1998. A Companion History of Portugal. Carcanet Press.
Good historical overview of Portugal’s fascinating history.
Kaplan, Marion. 1998. The Portuguese: The Land and its People. Viking Press
Kaplan is a photo journalist and her writing is strongest when discussing the art and architecture.
Russell, Peter. 2001. Prince Henry ‘the Navigator’ : A Life. Yale University Press.
Deals with this key figure of Portuguese history toppling many of the legends surrounding his personage and giving excellent contextual material surrounding his life and age.
He is a Portuguese Nobel Laureate who has published many works including the non-fictional: Journey to Portugal: In Search of Portugal’s History and Culture, and the wonderful, haunting work of fiction, Blindness (Harvest Press).
Barrenechea, Teresa and Mary Goodbody. 2005. The Basque Table: Passionate Home Cooking from One of Europe’s Great Regional Cuisines. Harvard Common Press. he Lusiads.
Wonderful introduction for foodies.
Gallop, Rodney. 1970. A Book of the Basques. University of Nevada Press.
Excellent collection and analysis of Basque folklore from song to dance to witchcraft.
Kerper, Barrie. 2003. Northern Spain. The Collected Traveler. An Inspired Anthology & Travel Resource. Three Rivers Press.
Great collection of articles by well-known writers on a variety of topics covering all of northern Spain.
Kurlansky, Mark. 1999. Basque History of the World.
A very readable but incredibly biased description of the Basque people from pre-history to the present day. It can’t be taken seriously as a historical account as many of his outrageous claims are not backed up. His take on the current situation with the Basque terrorist organization ETA is misinformed and one-sided and should be taken with a grain of salt.
Laxalt, Robert and Joyce. 1999. The Land of My Fathers: A son’s return to the Basque Country. University of Nevada Press.
Memoir written by the son of a Basque immigrant who returned to visit his father’s village in Spain. Laxalt is considered to be one of Nevada’s finest writers and has written several books set in the Basque country including the award winning A Cup of Tea in Pamplona.
Sevilla, María Jose. 1990. Life and Food in the Basque Country. New Amsterdam Books.
Discover the Basque Country and its people through its food culture. Good, leisurely read.
Woodworth, Paddy. 2007. The Basque Cultural History. Signal Books.
Irishman Paddy Woodworth has been writing about the Basques for thirty years and is most well known for his take on the Basque terrorists, ETA, in his Dirty War, Clean Hands. The book provides good background information on the Basque Country in general.
To prepare for and enjoy more your walking and hiking tour in Spain, along the Camino de Santiago or in Portugal, here are some of the brochures from these area’s official tourism websites (www.spain.info, www.turgalicia.es, www.visitportugal.com, www.turismo.navarra.es, www.tourism.euskadi.net).
They are great resources and will help you with trip planning and anticipation of your holiday in Spain and/or Portugal. Find many additional brochures not listed here through the tourism websites.